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Defining and mapping the teal vote

May 31, 2022 - 09:30 -- Admin

There has been a lot of talk about the “teal vote” at this last election, identifying a movement of independents almost like a party, and trying to gauge levels of support for their agenda.

In a sense this is doomed to failure. This group shares some policy objectives but also consists of quite different people, and their presence in certain seats is a creation of the political environment in those areas. In many seats there is no “teal vote”, not just because no candidate runs but because the political context of that seat is different. But it is still worth identifying how broad the movement was, and how many people voted for them.

In this post I will try to define who counts as part of this group of independents, how they polled, and will drop in some booth-level maps for four of the main regions of success.

The first question is a matter of definition, and I have come up with three lists to use. They mostly contain the same candidates, but there are some differences.

Before the term “teal” became so popular in the last few months, the group of candidates was often referred to as “Voices independents”, after the local community groups founded in a lot of electorates. These groups went on to seek out and choose a candidate. Wikipedia has a handy list that features 18 candidates.

Then there is Climate 200’s list of supported candidates. Climate 200 has been raising funds for a select list of candidates, as well as providing support in other ways. I haven’t been able to find a text list, but the website has the photos of their 23 supported candidates on the front page, and I’ve been able to make a list. Their list includes four sitting MPs as well as six new MPs elected in 2022.

The list also includes three senate candidates, so that leaves 20 House candidates. Thirteen of these twenty candidates are also on the Voices list. There are two seats where two candidates are running: one endorsed by a Voices group, and the other endorsed by Climate 200. Those seats are Hughes and Flinders, and in those seats I’ve included both on the list.

The Guardian also produced an interactive in March with a list of 22 House candidates. This includes almost everyone on the other two lists (but not Sharkie, Wilkie, or Climate 200-endorsed candidates in Flinders and Grey) and includes one more candidate: Rob Priestly in Nicholls.

So all up that’s 26 candidates. Four elected in 2019 or earlier, six more elected in 2022. Three of these candidates are men, and the other 23 are women. 25 are officially independents, with one a member of the Centre Alliance, but the only CA candidate running in 2022. For the rest of this piece, unless specified otherwise, I’m including Sharkie as one of the independents. Excluding the four incumbents, 22 of these candidates ran in 20 Liberal seats, with the other four running in Nationals seats. There were no teals running in Labor seats.

As of the time of writing, the total vote for independents is 5.4% of the total House formal vote. It’s 5.65% if you include Sharkie’s Centre Alliance. Of that 5.65%, 3.97% of the vote was cast for one of the defined teals. That’s about 70% of the total independent vote. About 1.04% of the national formal House vote was cast for Haines, Wilkie, Steggall and Sharkie, leaving about 2.9% for non-incumbent teal candidates.

A remarkable number of independent candidates made it to the two-candidate-preferred vote. Sixteen independents made it to the top two in their seat, and fifteen of these independents are teals. The only exception is Dai Le, who is sitting on 52.4% of the two-candidate-preferred vote in Fowler.

The four incumbent teals were all comfortably re-elected, with margins ranging from 8.7% in Indi to 20.6% in Clark.

All of the newly-elected independents won by quite slim margins. Kate Chaney is sitting on a 1.04% margin in Curtin, while Allegra Spender is on 4.1% in Wentworth, with the others all sitting in between.

The other five candidates all performed respectably, with two-candidate-preferred votes ranging from 39.4% for Kate Hook in Calare to 47.3% for Caz Heise in Cowper.

While all six newly successful teal independents represent urban electorates, four of the five other candidates who made the top two were in regional seats: two in Victoria and two in New South Wales. The fifth, Nicolette Boele in Bradfield, borders teal seats in North Sydney, Warringah and Mackellar.

I have two main takeaways from this analysis. Firstly, a lot of these independents were elected on slim margins. Maybe this was luck, or good targetting, but it demonstrates how single-member electorate races can produce significant number of seat gains with a small swing.

Secondly, while it is interesting to look at these candidates as a group, they are not a consciously formed party. I don’t expect the ten teal-tinged independents in parliament will all moved together. For a start, I’m not sure Andrew Wilkie fits in with the others, despite the C200 endorsement. While there are strong incentives for these independents to cooperate in parliament, in the end they will have different agendas and policy perspectives, even if they have things in common.

Finally, I’ve produced booth maps showing the two-candidate-preferred vote for the teal independents in their strongest areas.

First up, Sydney. This map shows four seats on the north shore of Sydney, and Wentworth in the eastern suburbs.

There is a strong divide in Wentworth that has been consistent over numerous elections. The independent won most election-day booths along the coast of Mackellar, and actually won a lot of booths in Bradfield. I suspect the Liberal Party did better in the special votes than they did on the day, and that doesn’t show up in this map.

Next up is Melbourne. I’ve included Kooyong, Goldstein and Higgins in between. No teal independent ran in Higgins, so that part of the map shows the Labor-Liberal two-party-preferred vote.

Next up, a booth map of Curtin in Perth.

And finally, this map shows the Coalition-Independent two-candidate-preferred count in three rural Victorian seats: Indi, Nicholls and Wannon.

If you zoom in, you can see that the independent in Nicholls won most of the booths around Shepparton, which is represented by an independent state MP.